Police officers accused of rape or domestic abuse will be immediately suspended under a future Labour government, the party has announced, amid growing concern that other serial sexual abusers will be found in the UK’s forces.
The announcement follows criticisms of the government’s response after the former police officer David Carrick was formally sacked on Tuesday after pleading guilty to 49 charges of sexual assault including dozens of rapes. He had been allowed to continue to work as a police officer despite multiple allegations.
Labour’s proposed change in the rules would bring the police in line with other professions in the public sector such as teaching, where a serious allegation results in an immediate suspension pending an inquiry.
The announcement comes as Suella Braverman, the home secretary, ordered UK police forces to check all officers and staff against national police databases to identify suspected misogynistic predators who have “slipped through the net”.
When Carrick was accused of rape in July 2021, he was not suspended but placed on restricted duties. He was later returned to full duty after the allegation was dropped, before being again accused of rape by a different victim.
Under the current rules, if a serving police officer is accused of rape or domestic violence it is left up to the individual force to decide whether or not to suspend them.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, promised to change the law on police misconduct in government as part of a major Labour programme of reform on police standards. She said: “The home secretary must show leadership and take urgent action to change the way that rape and domestic abuse allegations are dealt with in the police.
“Most people would be horrified to learn that police officers who are accused of rape are not automatically suspended pending an investigation. It truly beggars belief that David Carrick was not suspended. But there are, sadly, many more cases where action hasn’t been taken.
“Ministers promised us things would change after the awful murder of Sarah Everard. But that has badly failed. We’ve had enough of the empty words and hand-wringing. We need action.
“The next Labour government will change the law and bring in tough new rules on police misconduct and vetting to protect victims and rebuild confidence,” she said.
A super-complaint submitted by the Centre for Women’s Justice last year found significant inconsistencies in how domestic abuse perpetrated by police was investigated and dealt with, including serious inconsistency in how and when officers were suspended.
After Carrick’s guilty plea, the Met commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, disclosed the force was investigating 1,000 sexual or domestic abuse claims involving about 800 of its officers.
Carrick, known to colleagues as “Bastard Dave”, humiliated his victims, called them “slaves”, and locked some in a cupboard under the stairs for hours without food. The Met apologised on Monday after it emerged that nine incidents involving him had been brought to the police’s attention between 2000 and 2021, including allegations of rape, domestic violence and harassment.
In a statement on Wednesday, Braverman said: “We are taking immediate steps to ensure predatory individuals are not only rooted out of the force, but that vetting and standards are strengthened to ensure they cannot join the police in the first place.”
Labour and some Conservative MPs have called for the government to go further in pursuing police officers who had failed to report Carrick, and to introduce policies that clamped down on misogyny in the force.
On Wednesday, the chair of the home affairs select committee, Diana Johnson, called for the police to be described as “institutionally sexist” after a series of policy failings around rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence.
Ministers, including Braverman, have backed efforts by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to strip Carrick of his pension, reported to be £22,000 a year.